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Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Army honor guard bids farewell to Lee

SHOW OF FORCES The army honored its out-going commander-in-chief, President Lee Teng-hui, with a ceremony that was the first of its kind in Taiwan

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Lee Teng-hui salutes army troops during a military parade yesterday, during the final inspection before leaving office.

PHOTO: HAKU HUANG, LIBERTY TIMES

With less than two weeks remaining before he must leave office after 12 years on the job, President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was welcomed yesterday to a high-profile reception by the army. The president also oversaw the launch of the National Defense University and praised it as a milestone in the nation's military development.

The army general headquarters, based in Taoyuan County, had carefully arranged events for Lee, including performances by marching bands and honor guards as well as a rally of nearly 1,000 unarmed troops for inspection by the outgoing commander of the armed forces.

The arrangements were apparently designed to outshine a similar program hosted for Lee last week by the air force and the navy, when he visited the headquarters of the two services in Taipei.

One defense official, who declined to be identified, said it was the first time in Taiwan's history that the armed forces had to prepare farewell ceremonies for an out-going president.

It is not surprising that the three armed services have been at odds over their farewell ceremonies to Lee, because there has been no precedent for them to follow, the official said.

Ironically, however, the armed forces are much more experienced in the handling of farewell ceremonies for presidents who died while in office, he said.

Former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), died during their terms in office.

Another reason for the differences between the forces is that each arm has its own expectations and protocol, the official said.

The army, for instance, was more eager than the other two services to impress Lee during his last visit. The army apparently wanted to highlight the fact that it is still the dominating branch of the armed forces with respect to manpower and resources.

Lee, apparently pleased by the army's arrangements, said he hoped the force would continue moving toward modernization to reach the goals of "digitization, mechanization and automation."

As he left the army general headquarters after lunching with the top brass, Lee was saluted and hailed by over 1,000 troops and honor guards who sang a military farewell song while lining up along the two sides of the road.

Before Lee made the visit to the army general headquarters, he had stopped by at a nearby camp to preside over the inauguration ceremony for the National Defense University.

At the ceremony, Lee said the National Defense University -- which will integrate the four major military academies -- is to be the top academic institution of the armed forces in the future.

Lee also stressed the importance of continuing reforms and streamlining in the military.

"In the new millennium, the army must continue to push through its restructuring plan," Lee said. "We need a small but high-quality army."

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